Partha Sarathi Das Goswami Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 10

Partha Sarathi Das Goswami: I was 18 years old. I come from a town called Oxford in England, and I had always been searching for something a little more in life but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I watched a documentary film on English TV called “Panorama,” and they covered three religious sects. They interviewed the Guru Maharajis, who in those days was quite popular, and an Islamic sect of Sufism, and then they had a part about the Hare Krishna devotees in London. So I was most impressed with the devotees, and at that point I started to search for spiritual life. I remember that evening I went out for a walk with my dog, and I started singing Hare Krishna in the fields. So that provoked an inquiry on my part into spiritual life. I used to go to the biggest bookshop in the world in Oxford, it’s called Blackwell’s, and I used to go through the religious section of the Bhagavad-gitas. So one day, February, I was walking on the streets and I bumped into one devotee. Actually it was Prabhavisnu Maharaja, who sold me a ticket to a program they were doing in the Town Hall that evening. So I went to that program, and I became very enlightened. I bought an Isopanisad, and I very carefully studied it for about a month. Then I decided to visit the temple in London, early ’73 around about March. So I went a few times, and then consequently I joined the movement in London. And I was doing books every day. I think that’s what we all did in those days. Then Pusta Krishna Swami, he came through and he was looking for devotees with English passports for South Africa, and I was canvassed. So then I found myself going to South Africa. I was a very young devotee. I’d been in the movement two years. Of course, now as the years go by, you appreciate Srila Prabhupada and his contribution a lot more. He was very keen to preach. South Africa is tucked away very much at the bottom of Africa, and also apartheid so it’s a little dangerous. But Prabhupada was still willing to come. Actually he originally wanted to come in 1972. So I saw his compassionate nature, wanting to come to a very distant country and then trying to nourish his followers. He liked the programs we had, and he said if we had organized more he would have stayed longer. This also inspired me because in 1977 I started similar types of programs, pandal-type programs, which actually attracted hundreds and thousands of devotees. So that initial training I had with Prabhupada when he went to seven or eight large programs… I was actually not only the pujari and not only the gardener, I was also in charge of the programs – putting up the vyasasana, decorating it, making sure there were no pins left on his cushion, organizing the PA system, being the first one there and being the last one to go, and also organizing the film projector. We used to show the “Hare Krishna People” film, that first film that ever came out. So that was like preparation for 15 years of pandal programs, which attracted so many people. So again Prabhupada was pointing me in a certain direction.

It was in Johannesburg and it was an afternoon darshan, and Prabhupada was speaking in a general way to about one dozen devotees. There was a Jewish lawyer there also. Then Prabhupada quoted the verse kamasya nendriya-pritir labho jiveta yavata, which is Bhagavatam 1, 2, verse number 10, and then looked directly at me, I was sitting in front of Prabhupada, and said, “Find that verse,” and then there was silence. I started shaking, I started sweating profusely because languages is my worst subject. So I was in complete anxiety. There you can see me performing arati by Prabhupada’s mercy. So I really didn’t think I would find the right verse. I was handed a Bhagavatam by Pusta Krishna Swami, and I started trying to recall that verse. I had only been a devotee for two years so I was still trying to assimilate the Bhagavad-Gita, I hadn’t quite gone to Bhagavatam. But I did remember the third line that Prabhupada said, jivasya tattva-jijnasa, it sort of rhymes. So I looked that up in the Index and there it was. So then I read it, and that was pleasing to Prabhupada. Then Prabhupada continued speaking. So what I understood from this exchange was that Prabhupada was demonstrating to his disciples the importance of reading his books, which we know also. So consequently, I memorized that verse and, of course, many other verses in the Bhagavatam and the Bhagavad-gita. Prabhupada was always stressing how important his books were. A few days later we actually presented Prabhupada the Fifth Canto Volume 1 and Volume 2 in his room, and there is a very famous wonderful photograph taken by Bhargava prabhu of Prabhupada smiling and looking at the pictures. And that Fifth Canto Volume 2 is the hellish planets. Then he told Harikesa, who at that time was a brahmacari, “They think these books are only for selling, but actually they are for reading. I give you permission to read these books 24 hours a day.” Of course, Prabhupada was making a point. We can’t neglect the mission, but we must also read and understand the siddhanta.